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From jives and spins to slams and pins: Pro wrestling is thriving in this former B.C. nightclub

From jives and spins to slams and pins: Pro wrestling is thriving in this former B.C. nightclub

On a quiet side street just off the Township of Esquimalt’s main drag sits the building formerly home to the Carlton Club Cabaret.

Looking at this rundown former nightclub from the outside, you’d never know that the building is now home to a thriving athletic venture. 

An amateur wrestling league, 365 Pro Wrestling, now leases the 60-year-old building just five kilometres east of downtown Victoria as a place for up-and-coming wrestlers from across Vancouver Island to grapple, slam and pin each other in the ring.

Inside the former club, a ring with ropes sits where the Carlton’s dance floor once was. The room is dotted with relics of the nightclub’s past, with black chairs and tables inherited from the building’s previous occupants. The venue holds about 160 people, with the closest seats just feet from the ring.

The venue provides an important place for local athletes to get exposure through regular ring time — something that can be tough to get, but crucial at the outset of a wrestler’s career. 

Mike Becherer, founder of 365 Pro Wrestling, said he started the league in 2005 in Ontario under the name Pure Wrestling Association. He opened a second chapter in Campbell River, B.C., in 2013. He also offers training for young athletes twice a week through the 365 Pro Wrestling Academy.

WATCH | Wrestlers take the ring at former Vancouver Island nightclub:

Vancouver Island’s growing pro wrestling scene

365 Pro Wrestling takes professional wrestling to communities up and down Vancouver Island. They have a small but passionate audience.

Though Becherer stays busy in the background, he’s no stranger to the spotlight. He wrestles under the name Eddie Osbourne, and has his own theme song that plays when he makes his entrance into the ring. For him, the sport is pure bliss.

“It is physical theatre. It is live entertainment. It’s body slamming, hard-hitting action. It’s pro wrestling,” Becherer said. “[Fans] can sit a foot from the ring and watch two, three, four wrestlers compete and entertain you.”

The shows, which take place both at the Carlton and in other venues across Vancouver Island, are broadcast on YouTube under the name 365 Combat. 

Damon Roth, stage name Ramon Carlton, is the host and co-commentator of the videos alongside Becherer. He started out as a fan attending shows in Campbell River, where he was hooked and knew he had to get involved. Now he’s on stage as the announcer, riling up fans and keeping order in the ring.

“The atmosphere in here is absolutely electric. You have never felt any kind of atmosphere until you’ve been to a local independent wrestling show, especially one like this,” Roth said.

Important training ground

Professional wrestler Josh Lemay, who goes by “The Walking Weapon” Josh Alexander, said the exposure provided by 365 Pro Wrestling’s twice-weekly shows at the start of his career was paramount to the success he gained later on.

“In professional wrestling, the one thing that is more valuable than anything is experience,” Lemay said.

Lemay said Becherer saw his passion early on, and gave him the opportunity to improve his skills. Now, he sees Becherer nurturing other young talents that Lemay thinks will go far in the world of professional wrestling. He said “Golden Boy” Travis Williams and “Born Sinner” Judas Icarus are names to watch. Both are frequent competitors in 365 matches.

“To me, those two are probably in the top 10 most talented unsigned talents in all of Canada right now,” Lemay said.

Though there are other wrestling leagues on Vancouver Island, Lemay said that 365 is unique in having two locations, meaning that up-and-coming stars in B.C. can get the chance to wrestle in Ontario.

Though the league’s profile is rising and expanding with upcoming shows in Duncan and Courtenay, 365 will be looking for a new home in 2024. The Carlton is set to be redeveloped, but neither Becherer nor Roth seem too concerned. 

“Our plan is to send the building off in grand old style, entertaining the folks of Esquimalt in ways that they never really thought they would love, and have come to love,” Roth said. “[They] keep coming back.”

Becherer is confident that the show will go on. His hope for the future is to continue to expand the league’s reach.

“Just to keep getting bigger, more eyeballs on us,” Becherer said. “And [to give] people a place to work, and wrestle, and have these great matches so they get seen, and hopefully go further and further.”

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Eliot Bowman

Eliot Bowman (Eli Bowman) is a Journalist at Flaunt Weekly covering Business News.

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